In South Mississippi and adjoining Louisiana, at least as far as the Roaming Parkers are concerned, hiking and camping are seasonal activities. I guess you could call us fair-weather hikers, and 90+ degree heat, 90+ percent humidity, ticks, mosquitoes, and poison ivy do not count as fair-weather.
This means that around here, our hiking and camping season lasts from about October to May. God intended the other months for breezy, aquatic activities like canoeing, swimming, and fishing – or for traveling to somewhere that still has snow, like Kilimanjaro! or Mount Saint Helens
Some years back we had planned a 14-mile road hike at Vicksburg Battlefield Park. We’d intended to go sometime at the end of April, but something kept interfering each weekend, so we had to push it back and push it back until the last date we would even consider doing it was the first weekend in June.
It was miserable! 95+ degree heat and Mississippi River humidity combined with a 14-mile road hike on asphalt that literally melted the bottoms of my hiking shoes.
We had a group of inexperienced Boy Scouts hiking that day, but we all survived – just barely! Most of them swore that they would never hike another step in their lives and it took some real finagling to re-ignite their desire for hiking (but that’s a story for another day).
Anyway, that was the hiking trip that taught me about hiking season in Mississippi.
Roaming Parkers at Potkopinu
This past weekend the Roaming Parkers closed out our hiking season at Natchez with an overnight hammock camping trip at Natchez State Park and a day-hike at Potkopinu.
Lately, we’ve been promoting the idea that most people probably need to be kidnapped by aliens or something just so they’ll have a new story to tell their friends and family – so we were joined by a new alien abductee and honorary Roaming Parker, Barbara!
The camping was not really the main event – we just wanted to be near the trailhead so that we could get our hike started right at the crack of dawn before it got too hot. So we pre-prepared a couple of foil packs with some veggies and a couple of cut-up old boots (HA! it was really allegedly steak, but might as well have been boot leather) and we packed a cooler of beers and headed out.
When we got to the campground, it was raining, and the humidity combined with some old charcoal made for a bit of an ordeal trying to get it lit. I finally dug enough dry pine cones out from under a picnic table to be able to light the stack of charcoal, and we got the veggie-and-shoe foil packs cooked – and they were great! Everything tasted great and chewing the steak provided some exercise!
One thing that the Roaming Parkers like to do during long trips and in downtime is to read-to and be read-to. Conveniently, Elise likes to read aloud and hates to be read to, and I hate to read aloud but I like being read-to.
So she began reading aloud from Jan Redford’s exciting new mountain climbing memoir, End of the Rope. It is a lot like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and it bears some resemblance to Aron Ralston’s disastrous outdoors story, 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
That is, it is a true-life story about the misadventures and screw-ups and self-inflicted disabilities that have made life difficult and exciting for this woman who started out to become a professional mountain guide but who would eventually end up a professional writer.
After we read a few chapters of the Jan Redford book, we crawled into our hammocks and would have been asleep in an instant but we discovered we’d set up our hammocks in the hunting ground of a screech owl – at least we thought it was a screech owl, but this one is much larger than screech owls and has a different face. It was probably a common barn owl. At any rate, it was making its whistling screech all night long.
When we awoke from our nap, we choked down a couple of pre-made breakfast sandwiches, scooped up our new hiking buddy, Barbara, and headed out to the trailhead on State Road 553 just off the Parkway at mile marker #20.
The weather was clear and the morning was sufficiently cool for a fantastic first leg of our hike. We walked from the North trailhead to mile marker #17 on the sunken Trace then came back up the Parkway and picked up trash along State Road 553 on our way back to the vehicle.
When we have hiked the Parkway before, we saw lots of cyclists, but this time they were bicycling somewhere else. This time it was motorcycles – all northbound headed for the annual Armed Forces Day Trail of Honor in Jackson, MS.
When we paused at the Cole’s Creek rest station, we met a biker who called himself “Skinny Rob from Alexandria.” He commented on my BSA campaign hat and Elise noticed he had a BSA Philmont belt buckle. He was a scoutmaster from Alexandria from days gone by and now he spends his time on the Harley Owners’ Group activities, like this Trail of Honor Ride.
The last leg of the hike, along State road 553 back to the vehicle was miserable. Even though we’d started at the crack of dawn, we didn’t finish till around 11:30am and it was an oppressively hot, full-sun asphalt hike! By the time we got back into the shade of the north trailhead we could not have been any more sweaty!
During the ride back to Natchez State Park to drop off Barbara, we debriefed and Elise passed out the Trail swag for the day – little alien keychains to remind us to keep getting kidnapped by aliens so we’d have fresh stories to tell our friends and families!
Little did we know that Barbara would soon have another trail adventure and a great story to tell all because of that little green dude – but that is a story for another day!